Hilltop view of the Palestinian refugee camp Balata on the edge of the West Bank city of Nablus.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Gunmen from the Balata refugee camp in the West Bank on Monday blocked the main southern entrance to Nablus in protest against the arrest of some of their friends by the Palestinian Authority.
The gunmen prevented vehicles from entering the city or using nearby roads, witnesses said.
The gunmen warned that they would invite representatives of the Israeli media to the camp to talk about their problems if the Palestinian media continues to ignore them.
On Sunday night, the gunmen, who are affiliated with Fatah, marched inside the camp, firing shots into the air and demanding the release of their friends.
The protest was organized following the arrest of a gunman who is wanted for criminal offenses, the witnesses said. They said that the man, whose identity was not revealed, was shot in the leg during the arrest.
Balata has been the scene of tensions and armed clashes over the past few weeks between gunmen and Palestinian security forces.
The PA security forces have arrested several Balata residents on charges of involvement in various types of crime, including armed robbery and extortion.
The suspects have been transferred to the PA’s central prison in Jericho, and their continued incarceration has enraged the camp residents, especially the Fatah gunmen.
The Fatah leadership recently accused “armed gangsters” of imposing a reign of terror and intimidation on the residents of Balata and the nearby city of Nablus.
“The camp has been hijacked by an armed group that is terrorizing and threatening to kill residents who dare to speak out,” Fatah said in a statement. The faction accused the gunmen of extorting money from wealthy businessmen in Nablus and running a big market for drugs and weapons.